It’s been all over the news, so I’m sure you know by now: Meow, the amazing “fat cat,” passed away over the weekend.
Apparently the cause of death was pulmonary failure: His lungs just gave out, and as hard as they tried, the vets at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society and three other emergency vets and veterinary specialists couldn’t bring him back.
"His extreme obesity may have set off a string of events that ultimately ended his life," said shelter veterinarian Jennifer Steketee, who had been monitoring Meow’s progress for the last few weeks.
My heart broke when I heard the news on Monday morning. My grief from losing my own beloved Dahlia a couple of weeks ago is still pretty raw. The gurgling gasps of her last breaths are still echoing in my memory, and to think of another cat — another young cat! — struggling to breathe like that, just left me in tears all over again.
Meow’s loss is all the more poignant for me because I had the privilege of interviewing Marie Stewart, the daughter of the woman who surrendered Meow to the shelter when she could no longer take care of him. We talked for more than an hour about the story behind the story of this huge and wonderful cat.
He made an impact at least as large as his belly. At first, people made fun of Meow and treated him like some kind of freak show. They assumed that his caretakers were ignorant people who didn’t care about their cat’s health. But as we learned the truth behind the sensationalized stories spread by the media, we discovered that Meow was deeply loved and cared for and that the individuals who provided for him did the very best they could with the information they had.
Meow made appearances on local and national TV programs — and he put a spotlight on the epidemic of pet obesity. The Santa Fe Animal Shelter posted regular updates on Meow’s weight loss program, and we cheered with his vets and foster caretaker as he started shedding pounds.
The most amazing thing of all is that Meow didn’t just make a difference for obese pets, but for obese people, too. “He was meant to be out there and touch people’s lives,” Marie told me. “People are saying to me, ‘I used to look at fat people and make remarks, but now I understand.'”
“Meow had been doing so well in his foster home; walking up stairs and seeking affection — that it is so very hard to believe he is gone. We will forever be grateful for the attention Meow’s size brought to pet obesity and to animal shelters across the country. We are especially grateful to all of you who fell in love with this charming cat — as we did — and were so very interested in his progress and success.” ~ Mary Martin, Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society executive director
I talked to Marie yesterday afternoon, and as you can imagine, she’s overwhelmed, not just by Meow’s passing — which has come so shortly on the heels of her sister’s death — but by the outpouring of love and support.
“My e-mail is overflowing. Meow’s e-mail is overflowing,” she told me.
She plans to send an e-mail update to Meow’s family, friends, and fans; when I get that, I’ll provide more information.
For now, though, I believe Marie has more than enough to deal with, without being pestered for comments. And for what it’s worth, I don’t know how good I’d be at asking questions: I’m holding back tears as I write this.
My deep and heartfelt condolences go out to Marie; her mother; and her niece, Lacie, who helped to take care of Meow, as well as to the staff of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society and every single one of you who fell in love with Meow and were following his story.
Thank you all so much for loving this sweet, fat little dude and for taking such good care of him right until the end.
I like to think my Dahlia was waiting at the other side of the Rainbow Bridge to greet Meow and show him around his new digs.